Philadelphia teenager Akayla Brown has garnered nearly $2 million in scholarship offers, and was recently named a recipient of the esteemed Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship Award.
In an interview with NBC 10 Philadelphia, the 18-year-old from South Philly shared that she has received 18 acceptance letters from various prestigious colleges and universities. She ranks in the top three of her class and boasts a 4.19 GPA. She also runs a nonprofit that holds events to benefit people in her community who are experiencing hardships like homelessness and food insecurity.
Brown learned earlier this month that she was one of 300 high-school students selected from across the country to win the Gates Scholarship.
“When I got the news, I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I had to go outside for more air, I was outside jumping up and down."
She told Philly Magazine that the scholarship covers room and board, tuition and books at any school she decides to attend.
Even though the pool of scholarshop candidates included thousands of national applicants, the 18-year-old said she was confident that she had put in the work to be a finalist.
"I originally thought there were 10,000 applicants. Then I learned it was more like 34,000. I did have my doubts. But I believed in myself and manifested it all the way,” she said. “They had my transcripts, so they already knew what I did in school. They could see that I had a 4.19 GPA. So instead of talking about school, I talked about my passions. At the age of 13, I decided to start a nonprofit, so I told them about that and how it has grown and how with this scholarship, I will continue to grow and extend it."
Her nonprofit, Dimplez 4 Days, was started in 2016 to “keep smiles on the faces and in the hearts and minds of my community members by doing whatever we have to do.” Through the organization, she’s hosted back-to-school drives, catered food events for people experiencing homelessness and brought on other young people to help her run the community-focused programs.
Although her nickname, Dimplez, inspires the name of her nonprofit, the teenager said that her mother inspires her and is her biggest influence.
“You can put that in all bold. I am Dimplez, and I am the face of this nonprofit, but if not for the moral support and guidance from my mother, I wouldn’t be able to do it,” she said.
The star student told Philly Mag that she’s made up her mind about where she’ll be attending school, but she isn’t quite ready to make her announcement yet. However, given her responsibilities to her organization, Brown said she needs to “stay close to and connected with my community.”
The future international business major revealed that she was accepted into her top three school choices; Temple, Villanova, and Howard. She was also accepted into Drexel, and said she hopes to use her degree to help grow her nonprofit.